Digitizing sponsorNational Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau. Produced with the cooperation of the Federal Civil Defense Administration.
Atomic tests at the Nevada Proving Grounds (later the Nevada Test Site) show effects on well-kept homes, homes filled with trash and combustibles, and homes painted with reflective white paint. Asserts that cleanliness is an essential part of civil defense preparedness and that it increased survivability. Selected for the 2002 National Film Registry of "artistically, culturally, and socially significant" films.
Illustrates the importance of good housekeeping and heat reflectant value of white paint. Photographed during the atomic blast at the Nevada proving grounds.
Ken Smith sez: Getting the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association to co-sponsor this production probably scored points with the anti-government-spending Republican administration of 1954, and it certainly created a surreal civil defense film to puzzle future generations. In an attempt to demonstrate "atomic heat's effects on American homes," miniature houses are built in the Nevada desert and exposed to atomic blasts. "What do these tests prove? Many things!" explains the optimistic narrator. By practicing "civil defense housekeeping" -- keeping your yard neat and giving the house a fresh coat of paint (hint, hint) -- you can prevent your home from being burnt to a crisp in an atomic blast! What difference this will make to you after the overpressure bursts your lungs, the thermal wave sets your skin on fire and the radiation makes you piss blood, is not explained. Produced in conjunction with the National Clean Up - Paint Up - Fix Up Bureau.
Reviewer:Victor Von Psychotron
March 28, 2016 Subject:
Sick of your neighbors' junk bringing down property values? Show them this.
This interesting short film discusses how painting your house, keeping it and the yard tidy, and not being a lazy bum will protect your home in a nuclear attack. The footage shown does indeed illustrate how better built and maintained homes can better withstand high temperatures and blast force, but makes no mention of radiation. There are cringe-worthy parts of the film in which the researchers wander into the blast areas without proper protection.
October 3, 2012 Subject:
A Layer of Paint and Plastic Seatcovers
...on your easy chair were all ya needed to survive a nuclear blast. Who'd a thunk?
This production (using laughable houses that look like that of the postwar immigrants from Scotland) is living proof that McCarthy's job wasn't done yet. And today, of course, its all too obvious.
But heavens to mergatroid, except for Al Gore, what dimwit would ever take their science and technology from an old white guy? Sheesh.
August 17, 2011 Subject:
Does anyone know who the host/narrator of the film is? I'm writing an academic article about the film, and thus would like to know. So far, my research (neither the Library of Congress nor the National Archives has production credits for the film) has yielded no answer.
May 21, 2011 Subject:
Clear your yard- except flowers
I love how he tells us to clear everything out of the yard that could catch fire- and then tells us to plant shrubs and flowers right next to the house. Apparently piling up kindling in your yard is okay as long as its pretty?
May 11, 2011 Subject:
An interesting pile of fear mongering garbage!
The conservatives who pushed this sort of garbage, perhaps primarily back in the 50's & 60's, were the biggest waster's of money, much more so than any liberal ever was and isn't it just interesting how Ronald Reagan pushed that very same type of garbage well into the 80's?! Historically, liberals spend money wisely and conservatives hoard and waste money ridiculously.
April 13, 2011 Subject:
January 2, 2011 Subject:
Excellent Film... Civil defense is a civic duty
This is an excellent film. Good civil defense is vital for survival and good civil defense requires all folks to do their part. In the vent of an atomic blast the danger is over in about a minute and a half. the trick is to be prepared to survive that 90 seconds. This foilm shows us one way to be better prepared.
November 4, 2010 Subject:
Best Film I've Ever Seen
I have never laughed so hard (and I'm keeping better household standards -or my wife is- as my civic responsibility to America.)
June 30, 2010 Subject:
Cold War Fear Marketing
Though my family and I have been vaporized, or are dead or dying, we won't be shamed when the new owners can move right in, after the radioactivity has died down to safe levels, and after the house has had a fresh coat of paint, of course!
March 23, 2010 Subject:
Hard to Believe
My knowledge of AT&T "blast proof" buildings built in the mid-fifties, tells me that this film is really stretching the truth. A wooden frame building as shown I believe would be destroyed by a closeby nuclear blast regardless of what was inside. In order to be "blast-proof" conventional frame construction would never be used. Buildings to be considered "blast-proof" would be of reinforced concrete with a breezeway.on a special foundation. This film for the most part is BS and trying to scare the public into 'spring cleaning'. In my mind a distinct farce and waste of taxpayers money.
March 1, 2010 Subject:
All I have to say is that if my house is ever that close to a nuclear heat blast, please let me die in a burst of flames! I mean did they not know about radioactive fallout back then? I am pretty sure that if the government would let you get anywhere near that testing ground today you will still find radiation there 70 years later. I cant believe that guy is going through the rubble with his bare hands! I would bet my life that he died of radiation poison or cancer! No I dont want to live if my house and me are still standing when everyone around is burt to a crisp anyway! I wonder how much paint they sold though?
February 25, 2010 Subject:
...Expensive paint commercial EVERY produced! Whatever else it might be, it certainly is that. How much do you think those three devices would cost in todays dollars?!?!
And don't forget if your going to paint it, paint it white, just like your neighbors, and their neighbors, and theirs... The way to survival is conformity!!!
(I'm rating it a three, cuz I had to pay the rest of my star's in taxes to pay for that 50 year old info-propoganda-mercial @#$%&)
June 30, 2009 Subject:
The video is faked
Interesting perspective on life in the 50s.
BUT, it seems no one has noticed that the film has glaring lies.
When they show the two houses exposed to the blast, the "messy" house is mocked for being on fire, and the "clean" house is shown intact, seemingly safe from the blast, because it didn't have newspapers in a magazine rack.
However, they keep showing the "clean" house being burned in a raging inferno! You can tell because the "clean" house kept the left side of its roof, and the "messy" house lost the left side of its roof. The movie keeps showing a blazing house with the left-side roof intact, and claims it was the "messy" house. They then cut to the same house, with the left-side roof intact, and remark how the "clean" house didn't catch on fire.
You can also notice that the "clean" house is shown on fire by the scorched paint pattern on the front. The identifiable pattern around the "window" can be seen immediately following the blast, then again when the house is engulfed in flames, and is referred to as the "messy" house, when in fact it is the "clean" house.
Interesting propaganda from the Atomic Age. Perhaps the subliminal message in the film was, "If you noticed the lies in this movie, you wouldn't expect to survive the blast anyway."
I give it 5 stars for its historical value, and true entertainment it provides.
September 7, 2008 Subject:
From the perspective of the 1950s
Any film, to be properly understood, should be considered in the context of the time in which it was made. In the 1950s, we didn't have the internet or Freedom of Information to learn a bunch of stuff the government might not have wanted us to know. We didn't know anything of the true horror and human price of Hiroshima. To us the "a-bomb" was really little more than a giant firecracker. All those slanty-eyed Japs were just too ignorant to know how to protect themselves. But we enlightened Americans understood that when the slavering, half-mad Russian war-mongers unleashed their inevitable attack on us, all we needed to do was hunker under a coffee table or have a neat house painted white and we'd come through it fine and dandy and ready to retaliate. And in the absence of any information to the contrary, millions believed it. Nobody would start DISbelieving their government until the Nixon era.
June 12, 2008 Subject:
Too bad the Japanese did not think of paint!
I am thinking that if the white paint is good to protect the house, why don't I just pour a bucket of white paint over my head???
It is too bad that the Japanese people who were cooked alive by the blast that hit them did not know that the answer to continuing life as we know it is in a Jones-Blair paint can!
June 12, 2008 Subject:
White paint vs New Orleans
This film demonstrates some principles about atomic explosions that were verified by numerous tests. Although practical, they only have value if your house was located in a narrow range from from the blast center.
This was a sincere reaction to a real threat. Like many of these public service films, it shows an effort of cooperation between government and citizens for a united goal. It was proactive in it's thinking, unlike the Katrina debacle, where the good people of Louisiana refused to acknowledge the levy problems posing an imminent threat.
What generation was more naive?
January 23, 2008 Subject:
Which house do you live in?
In this film we are told by Civil Defense that as a poor housekeeper we are going to die. Also we are told that the house must be freshly painted or we will die. This message had to be brought to us by the "National Association for Looking down on the Neighbors" although it says the Fix up, Clean up, and Paint up Foundation. (Although people are dying in slums I can't recall the cause ever being a nuclear bomb blast.) I am really surprised to see that money was spent to assess the effect of the nuclear bomb on newspapers and magazines on tabletops. (What did they think would happen?) But the real questions are, did they think we could just dust the sofa off and go back to a regular day after a A-bomb? Should I go join a group of vigilante housekeepers that will protect my city? (snd) Am I more likely to die if I have dry skin? I personally am going to do what I always have,... use handlotion and hope I am not hit with an atomic bomb.
January 10, 2008 Subject:
Who needs lead when you have varnish!
Why bother with re-locating to rural northern Montana or building costly shelters? Just keep a clean, well painted house, and remember to put a newspaper over your head when under the table.
And you wonder why the kids who grew up watching and absorbing these lies have led the good ol' USA down the road we are on now in 2007. Look at the age of almost all our presidential candidates in the year 2007. That era of kids in America were constantly fed this dose of propoganda in their classrooms and @ home in front of the new TVs. My generation got Schoolhouse Rock. We are still paying to this day for the lies and fears pushed onto that generation w/ the early advent of the TV. Our reality in 2007 is not more than a stone's throw from the BS theories bullied on us by that generic, authoratative voice in those old propo-docs. We still seem to be governed and affected by this EXACT mentality 24/7 in the present day USA. Fear, lies, utter contemmpt for common sense and the Golden Rule!!! The BOOB TUBE--the biggest WEAPON in our governments arsenal--NOT THE BOMB!!!! Oh yeah, don't forget that spring cleaning and your new paint job on the house. As for 2007---just keep shopping and just keep on watching another episode of Desperate Housewives or American Idiot-(oops, I mean IDOL!)!!! Fear, GOD, GDP, GOP, GOD, GDP, GOP----politics and a gross domestic product a SOUL of a nation DO NOT MAKE!!!---we can do so much more in this world CITIZENS OF THE WORLD!! 2012--Paradise Waits??????????????????????
July 12, 2006 Subject:
Paranoia, but With a Lesson
Yes, we can easily point and gasp at the Cold War paranoia and the futility of painting houses. But do you notice something different between the Age of the Atomic Bomb and the Age of the Terrorist?
Back then folks were asked to pitch in and make a sacrifice, much as they had been during World War 2. Today, our sorry-ass president asks people to buy gas-guzzling hummers - and offers tax rebates on them! How many soldiers does it take to fuel maerica's fleet of automobiles? 2500 and counting.
Sacrifice? Consume less gas? Reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign oil? Bah! Time to go shopping!
I'm ready for a little Cold War "let's pitch in together" kind of thinking.
June 11, 2006 Subject:
The Three Little Pigs of the Atomic Age
"A house that's neglected is a house that may be doomed, in the atomic age" -- and only the prudent little pig's will stand sound and pretty when the bomb drops. This has to be one of the most insane works of the Cold War. As I well remember, nuclear war was such a forgone conclusion that it made sense to spiff up the house to better face the inevitable. An alternative title for this film might be "Dr Stangelove... Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Repainted My House Instead."
May 31, 2006 Subject:
I'm thinking Aluminum siding would be the best to repel that nasty Flash. On the other hand How long does aluminum hold radiation? Mr. Science? I do know that Gold soaks radiation like a sponge. But Superman can't see through the lead in lead based paint so It must block radiation the best. Colored Vinyl siding is clearly the biggest looser in the Atomic Age. And Messy people. Good riddance to those folks. If your going to have people over with their skin peeling off, you want then to be neat-nicks....Am I right folks? They should be the kind that have always picked up after themselves. I don't want to pick up after they leave for the evening. I know the film was black and white but I could swear that guy on the scene looked a bit red.
The results speak for themselves. Why that fool keeps explaining makes no sense. A good film....wish I owned a major paint company.
Those crazed hippie do gooders in California don't believe this stuff, and let the wooded areas gather tinder and trashy undergrowth. Every summer, an inferno.
What does this all meanÃÂÃÂ¿ SenorÃÂÃÂ¿ 'Cleanliness IS next to godliness.' Those who don't clean will BURN in the flames of hell. Yessir.
April 12, 2006 Subject:
In the event of a nuclear exchange, the couch potatoes will be the first to go...
Without a doubt, the American Federal Civil Defense Administration film The House in the Middle provides the definitive argument for residential beautification. After an initial briefing by a devoted Civil Defense spokesman, viewers are whisked away to the Nevada Proving Ground where they witness the frightening consequences of neglecting their spring cleaning. Edifices that exhibit "all the earmarks of untidy housekeeping" are promptly incinerated by a set of controlled nuclear blasts, but tidy ones maintain their integrity. Curiously enough, one of the structures is able to weather an explosion simply because its exterior has been coated with white paint. The absurdity of the whole exercise makes for compelling viewing.
January 4, 2006 Subject:
Not Fear - Hope.
I take it a lot of you were not alive during the height of the Cold War.
The government did not have to create fear, the fear was real. The government wanted to maintain order. The movie was meant to reassure the general public that things would be alright if order was maintained.
I doubt that most people believed that a fresh coat of paint (lead based, in those days) would really do much but it gave them a sense of some control which they really needed.
November 19, 2005 Subject:
miss atomic bomb
Death day record for theatre. They considered film from altitudes mass produced. The apparatus underway. Still open behind the vodka wearing goggles she complains hard these deep cuts. The switch was thrown. Automatic controller quickly descends into the specter of an infinite regress. Most efficient sane targets untouched. This is my kind of revolt. Partly wear white later between visual excitements. All the rooms, all the beds carved up. At eye level we did not see floorboards gather black letting down more of your waiting and wishing the impressions of time just taken. Test system. Oh protect yourself. Yes even suburbs here stood half modern three young natured bulls rolling for civil defense. Well I guess dirty good bye to your shop dead old florist past time. Trigger theory. These test films consider residual material small artificial underlain foreign automatic insolence. Drink towards that space of giddy flat shock.
November 15, 2005 Subject:
who doesn't mind an atomic explosion every now and then?
so tending my garden will help prevent my house from burning up like an out-of-control forest fire, eh? and from what i've read, the whole white paint thing is true, but overall this just looks pathetic. (i know, it's been said before, i don't care).
October 6, 2005 Subject:
Why does everyone hate the government?
This is a good movie because it shows how the government was trying to help people to show them how to not die and keep their house if there was a nuclear bomb. It's not the government's fault that there is nuclear bombs. they have to keep all of us safe somehow. Bombs make people safe. If there were not bombs, we would all be in danger. I think President Bush should use nuclear bombs on Saddam Husaine so America will be safe again. He should make another movie to show how hundreds of billions of dollars in increased defense spending protects people from box cutters on airplanes. Yeah, that'd be good. I'd watch that shit.
September 25, 2005 Subject:
Naive in those days
People had to be very naive in 1954 to fall for this nonsense. However,the film is interesting for historical value.
April 29, 2005 Subject:
Nat'l Paint-up Clean-up or Nuke-down assoc.
A seriouly condescending narrator informs us how dead grass, newspapers, and other flammables should be removed from our homes and yards to make for safer conditions in atomic blasts, complete with demonstrations. This is a captivating piece of propaganda that seems like it has more of an agenda than getting people to fix up their homes. The narrator continually berates these test homes as they get nuked in stop-motion photography:
"..in every town, you'll find houses like this. Run down, neglected. ... An eyesore, yes. And as you'll see, MUCH MORE. A house that's neglected may be DOOMED, in the atomic age!"
March 29, 2005 Subject:
Good advice and fair propaganda.
In truth it's always wise to keep your home clean & neat, nobody can deny that. And by making your home a fire hazard you risk loosing it if a fire breaks out.
The old cold war hysteria is still alive and well today, ( who here still keeps duct tape and plastic sheeting handy egh ? ), only today it's the evil "terrorists" and not the endless "commie hoards" who are out to destroy our way of life.....sigh, the name's change but the story remains the same dosn't it ? And the goverment will always manipulate the feers of the masses to acheve it's own ends.
But the advice offered here is still good advice, for your own health and safty at least, if not for the paranoia inducing fear it was ment to inspire.
All in all a good little propaganda flick with some sage advise worth following.
March 27, 2005 Subject:
my room must be a death box
If it takes an orderly house to survive a nuclear blast, looks like I'll be dead.
March 25, 2005 Subject:
"as if it was kindled for a fire"
When I first read saw this film listed in the archives I gathered it was just some test footage if the military nuking houses in the nevada desert, I was wrong. This is a propaganda film made by the "National Paint up,Clean Up, and Fix Up Berau" (Huh?) baisicly saying that in the event of nuclear destruction the nicely painted houses will survive, as hokey as the premise sounds they do make some good points about dry wood and litter being more sustainable to heat. Looking back on it thiers one line in this film that lets us know what was going on "The other house still stands while the one on the right burns as if it was kindled for a fire"
If you are seriously considering a home which will be within a few miles of a thermo-nuclear explosion, then this movie is a MUST!! I never realized that the heatwave of a nuclear blast can, in part, be ameliorated by painting a home white. And next time you tell Johnny to clean up his room, you will be truthful when you say that his room will turn into a burning cinder at the next atomic volley if he doesn't pick up his trash.
This movie underscores the need for us citizens to always turn a critical eye at what the government is saying to us and doing for us. News can be manipulated, public sentiment can be shaped. Never give up your freedom for security.
On a positive note, that areal view of the atomic blast in the middle of the film was beautiful and rare footage of a fireball from an above-ground nuclear explosion. Thanks for preserving that!
February 16, 2005 Subject:
Two agencies in tandem
The NPCA which co-sponsored this film has as its stated mission:
"....The Association shall serve as the industry's chief advocate and spokesperson before the government and public and shall act to influence matters that impact the industry."
They come up with the some of the budget, the boys over at Civil Air Defense come up with their part and both get to do their pitch:
One being to sell paint, the other, fear.
I give it a five rating as an excellent example of blatant intimidation with a back end.
January 29, 2005 Subject:
A little... too clean?
In the end, yea though this movie does make some points, litter can be kindling for fire during a atomic (altough i think fire would be the least of your worries in that event), but some things stuck me:
They mention to make sure you weed your garden, and plant flowers... What difference does that make?? Seems a little too emphasized on cleanliness, some things useless cleaning (for the sake of fire prevention)...
I got the idea that this was a movie bent on scaring the shit out of americans, so that they'd go into a ad baculum-induced cleaning frenzy.
January 5, 2005 Subject:
Your safety protects my property value.
A great film that mixes common sense in preparing for the event with a drive to clean up the streets.
The highlights are the occasional film wobble which made me all reminiscent of technology I've never experienced (I started at VHS), rather obvious moments where the film stock is run backwards and some short but good shots of an atomic explosion.
November 29, 2004 Subject:
The notion here that keeping your home clean and well painted may save your life during an atomic blast is about as reliable as the Duck N Cover instuctional films. Maybe there is a 1 in a million chance that these methods may prove usefull but more than likely your ass is toast! I would love to see a film like this exposing the correlation between inter-racial dating and communism.
June 29, 2004 Subject:
Paint Can Be Your Protector
Come on, so your house may still be standing. Would you even be alive or well enough to care? Seems like a veiled attempt to make poor people clean up their junk.
June 6, 2004 Subject:
Client: We need to motivate people to clean up their houses so the neighborhood property values go up. We got this shitload of suburban property to cash in on, but people are afraid of the Cold War and all that nuclear shit.
Film producer: No problem.
June 6, 2004 Subject:
Makes Sense to Me
Put yourself in the shoes of a 50s family....
After the Civil Defense sirens go off and I gather my family together in the basement bomb shelter of my home, I sure don't want to survive the blast only to be trapped and burned alive because the rest of the house is kindling. Seems like a layer of paint and a clean house/yard is a small price to pay for survival.
Binging it back to today...if my house looked that run down, then the homeowner's association or the zoning board would get to me long before a bomb would. Are they colluding with paint manufacturers, too? I don't think so. Are they forcing me into becoming a Stepford family? Nope.
Pretty convincing movie. I learned something new. Some cool footage of stuff blowing up, too.
April 18, 2004 Subject:
Don't know about any of the other 'reviewees' but I know when I start a campfire I use kindling and old newspapers to get the logs burning...
Pretty decent advice. Pretty realistic too.
Too bad people are so 'cynical' and psuedo-scientific to heed the advice.
March 15, 2004 Subject:
What a way to sell paint
Save us, Paint! Save us!!!
My favorite quote: "Beauty, cleanliness, health and safety are the four basic doctrines that protect our homes, our cities." Who knew "beauty" had such a big role to play in case of atomic attack? Paint everything! Paint your family! Paint yourself!
Utterly ludicrous, and highly recommended.
p.s.: "The National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau"? Huh?
July 31, 2003 Subject:
The bomb is coming! tend to your garden!
I'm sorry. I just don't buy the so serious message in "House In The Middle" that you can help protect yourself from the bomb by CLEANING YOUR HOUSE is too farfetched. Narrated by an unnamed person in an office so farfetchedly decorated, the film has us believing that the best way to protect our homes from burning is to collect trash and remove unsightly newspapers lying around (and we're not talking in a newspaper stand, get rid of it all together! It will burn!) Bombs are tested (wasted?) on 3 test examples of houses, some of which look fine, but those newspapers on the table will burn your house down in no time flat! (but the plastic covers on the furniture will apparently protect your sofas from spills and apparently nuclear blasts). When the bomb breaks, we're shown that the place with all the papers have burst into flame while the others have not. Excuse me? I'm sure that there's some manipulation going on here, as that furniture would have gone up in flames as well. Government propaganda of the highest order (which of course makes it fun to watch). Highly reccomended!
Never mind the structural damage, at least it didn't burn down! Wow. Sponsored by the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association this film, while mentioning trash and other debris, seems to take too much joy in describing unpainted surfaces generally despicable. Oh, not to mention that if only you would paint your house and fence, they would better withstand an atomic blast. While obviously correct with respect to things like piles of paper being likely to catch fire, I would think anyone within the blast radius of a bomb would have bigger fish to fry (or perhaps grill over the charred remains of their disgusting unpainted fencing :D ). One has to wonder what people at the time thought of these kinds of films--did they take them seriously and respond with the proper level of shame/condescencion (depending, apparently on their economic class), or could they see through the "civil defense" veil to see this film as an attempt to shame people into urban/neighborhood renewal?
February 12, 2003 Subject:
House in the Middle
While it purports to teach everyone that better housekeeping can help your chances of survival in a nuclear holocaust, it struck me that this movie is probably not about nuclear preparedness at all. It seems to me more on par with films such as "Are You Popular?" - films that use the threat of being socially ostracized to try to make people conform to a particular mould of behaviour. The same thing seems to be going on here, only the threat is a little bigger; keep your house clean, act like all your neighbours do and you might not be vaporized when the apocalypse comes. You could certainly drag religious subtext out of there too, but I'm probably starting to over-analyse :)
Reviewer:Kold War Kid
December 2, 2002 Subject:
I love these old CD films! The sanctimonious tone of the overbearing narrator, the "dramatic" music...talk about the bad old days! The tests never show what would happen if the "houses" were closer to Ground Zero; the nice white paint wouldn't mean jack after the blast wave blew in the windows, "slicing & dicing" the occupants faster than a Cuisinart, if the folks inside weren't already dry-roasted by the flash. I guess the powers that be decided the American public was too slow-witted to figure out what would really happen in a nuclear attack. The Brits have a couple of honest-to-God scary nuclear attack films. One of them showed the injuries caused by the flash and blast of a nuke, using graphic makeup and demonstrations (such as a watermelon being skewered by pieces of broken glass from a window). I don't scare easy, but this thing was on a PBS station some years ago, shown at night along with the usual warnings; damn thing made me want to turn on the lights all over the house. Another one entitled "The War Game" was a BBC documentary made in the mid-60s; REALLY strong stuff, not for the faint-hearted.
October 17, 2002 Subject:
The House in the Middle
Did you know that good housekeeping can keep you safe from the atomic bomb? Houses are set up near bomb tests, some neat, some sloppy. The sloppy homes are described with barely concealed derision. "You have all seen homes like this," the narrator says, and we expect him to continue with something like, "...the homes of those weird, non-white people on the wrong side of the tracks." Needless to say, the neat homes survive the bomb lots better than the sloppy homes. "This proves that there is something you can do right now to protect yourself," the narrator continues. The fact that any people in the neat or sloppy homes would be toast is not acknowledged in any way. Appalling.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****. Also available on You Can Beat the A-Bomb.